Superman is one of the biggest and most popular heroes in the comic book world, partly because he’s been around so long, but also because of his huge list of powers. If you count the power of flight, strength, heat vision, freeze breath, invulnerability, super-speed and X-ray vision, he has more powers than all the members of some super-teams have put together. While some people say that makes him boring or overpowered, Superman’s fans know it’s a big part of what makes him awesome.
One reason Superman has so many powers is that, when he was first created, the writers would just give him whatever powers he needed at the time. Over time, some powers were phased out and new abilities were added. He has had so many superpowers that some fans might have missed them. Here are 15 of Superman’s powers that you might not even have known he’s had over the years.
15. THROWING SHIELD
The first power we’ll cover will be from 1980’s “Superman II,” starring Christopher Reeve and directed by Richard Donner and Richard Lester. It’s one of the best Superman movies ever made, but it also introduced some weird moments. In the movie, General Zod and his minions Non and Ursa from Krypton try to take over the world, ending in a climactic battle in Superman’s Fortress of Solitude. During the fight, Superman ripped the shield logo off his chest and threw it at Non, causing the mute Kryptonian to get tangled up in a large cellophane trap.
The power to throw his shield logo is one of the most surreal and controversial moments in Superman’s history. He’s never done it before or since, and it’s not even clear how Superman did it. The shield looks and acts like it’s made of plastic wrap, except it also grows and becomes strong enough to hold Non prisoner until the shield just disappeared. Was it a hologram or hallucination? Was it actually some sort of real Kryptonian tech? We may never know.
14. UNIVERSAL TRANSLATION
Superman’s catchphrase is “truth, justice and the American way,” but he’s a hero for the entire universe, not just the United States. He travels all over the world and even through space to save people, and that means he should have a serious language barrier. After all, he grew up in Kansas. Going to France or to the planet Apokalips would be a problem if it wasn’t for his little-known power to translate all known languages.
The fact that Superman is an omniglot (someone who speaks multiple languages) is a power that goes back to his character before the “Crisis on Infinite Earths” in the Silver Age when he was much more powerful. It was said that his super-intelligence allowed him to instantly learn and understand any language spoken to him. He even once translated a mermaid’s speech, so alien languages are a cinch for him. He hasn’t used this power much recently, but in 2010’s “Batman/Superman Apocalypse,” fellow Kryptonian Supergirl learned English in a month, so it apparently runs in the family.
13. PHASE THROUGH OBJECTS
There are a lot of superheroes who have the power to pass through solid objects, including Martian Manhunter and Shadowcat of the X-Men. Superman had this power, too, although he hasn’t really used it much. Its most infamous appearance was in “The Mysterious Cube,” an episode of “The Adventures of Superman” in 1958. Written by Robert Leslie Bellem and Whitney Ellsworth and directed by George Blair, the show had a bizarre escape plan by a criminal that only Superman could solve.
In the episode, a wanted criminal named Paul Barton hid himself in a cube of super-strong metal, trying to get declared legally dead so he could be absolved of his crimes. To stop him, Superman learned how to vibrate his molecules to pass through objects and into the cube to capture him. He also did the vibration trick in his rematch against Doomsday in 2001’s “Superman” #175, written by Jeph Loeb and penciled by Ed McGuinness. Superman doesn’t do it much, because he’d prefer to smash walls, not pass through them.
You might think of Plastic Man and the Elongated Man when you think of shapeshifting, but now you need to throw Superman into that mix. Superman has one of the most famous and imitated costumes in comics, so it’s rare when he changes his appearance at all, but he has used this ability a few times, so it counts. Once again, this power came in his Golden Age era, when Superman had “super-muscles” that could mold his face and body like clay.
In 1947’s “Superman” #44, written by Bill Finger and penciled by Ira Yarbrough, Superman needed to impersonate a famous stuntman who worried he would be recognized. That’s when Superman used his “super-muscular control” to change his face to perfectly copy the stuntman. However, in “Superman” #45, he topped himself by molding his entire body to look like an inter-dimensional warrior and escape from a cage. When you have super-muscles like that, you can do anything.
Everybody knows Superman’s biggest weakness is kryptonite, but one of the Man of Steel’s lesser known weaknesses is that he has no defense against psychic assaults. That means a lot of villains can attack his mind, even if they can’t attack his body. Superman doesn’t seem to have many psychic powers in his modern version, but in the past, his super-brain gave him the power of telepathy, meaning he could read and send his thoughts into other minds.
The most modern version of this power came in the 1993 TV series “Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.” In 1996, the third-season episode “Through a Glass, Darkly” revealed that some Kryptonians had survived the destruction of the planet and lived on another world called New Krypton. Superman was taken by some of them, and discovered all Kryptonians spoke with their minds, but that hasn’t been the case in other versions of Krypton.
10. TELEKINESIS VISION
Another power that started in the Golden Age and carried over into the modern era is Superman’s telekinesis. Most comic fans know one of Superman’s weaknesses is that he doesn’t hold up too well against psychic powers, but don’t know that he’s had psychic abilities of his own. This power came up more in the Silver Age, but there was also a notable moment in the 1987 movie “Superman IV: The Quest for Peace.” Directed by Sidney J. Furie and starring Christopher Reeve, “Superman IV” involved a solar-powered clone of Superman named the Nuclear Man, who battled the hero around the world and even on the moon.
“Superman IV” was an awful movie riddled with plot holes, but one moment really stood out, and that was the Man of Steel rebuilding the Great Wall of China. Earlier in the movie, Superman and Nuclear Man destroyed it, and Superman went to fix all the damage they had done. Instead of just putting it back together with his super-speed, Superman just used a beam from his eyes that reassembled the Wall. Too bad he didn’t use it to rebuild Metropolis in “Man of Steel.”
Everything is super-powered about Superman, including his kiss. We’re not saying that Superman is a great kisser (we have no first-hand knowledge of that), but rather that his kiss has actual powers that come with it. Specifically, Superman can erase someone’s mind with just a kiss. Most fans know this power from “Superman II,” where Lois Lane learned Superman was really Clark Kent, but Kent erased her memory of it at the end of the movie with his kiss. This came up in the comics, too.
In 1963’s “Action Comics” #306, writer Robert Bernstein and penciler Al Plastino created a story that ended with Clark Kent and Lois Lane caught under the mistletoe at a Christmas party. At the encouragement of the others and Lois’ amusement, Kent kissed her. To everyone’s surprises, Kent gave Lois a kiss that almost knocked her out. Superman’s a lover, not a fighter, but he packs a wallop either way.
8. MIND CONTROL
Remember what we said about Superman’s mental powers? That brings up another power he has, which is mind control. Yes, Superman can use his super-brain to force people to do his will. Once again, this is more of a Golden Age power, and even in the Golden Age, Superman didn’t use it that often. However, there was a notable instance in 1947’s “Superman” #45.
Written by Jerry Siegel and penciled by John Sikela, the issue had a story called “Case of the Living Trophies,” where Superman was kidnapped by an inter-dimensional collector. He was kept in a case filled with gas that paralyzed him, leaving him a living trophy, just like it said on the tin. To escape, Superman used his “telepathic will control” to take control of the alien’s mind and escape. It’s a shame he never used his “will control” again, because if he used that more often, things might go easier for him.
7. BRAIN SURGERY
You probably already know about Superman’s heat vision, because it’s one of his most iconic powers. What you may not know is one of the weirder things he’s used it for, which is brain surgery. Superman can use his heat vision to cause some major damage if he wanted to, and he did so in 2001’s “Action Comics” #775 against the ruthless antihero Manchester Black.
Written by Joe Kelly, and pencilled by Doug Mahnke and Lee Bermejo, Superman encountered Manchester Black as the leader of a vigilante group known as the Elites. The Elites are a violent group of superheroes who were willing to kill villains as their means of saving the world, which Superman had a big problem with. Manchester Black used his telekinetic powers to pinch blood vessels in Superman’s brain in order to give him a stroke, but Superman got his revenge in the end. The Man of Steel used his heat vision to burn the portion of Manchester Black’s brain that gave him his abilities, leaving Black powerless.
6. COPYING HIMSELF
One of Superman’s failings is that he can’t be in two places at once…or can he? This brings us to another little-known power, the ability to copy himself. Superman has been copied and split into multiple versions many times, and in TV series “The Adventures of Superman,” he discovered that he had the power to make duplicates of himself. In the comics, one of the most important and strangest moments came in 1998 in the storyline that came to be known as “Superman Red and Superman Blue.”
Starting in “Superman” #122 (1997), Superman lost his usual powers and became an energy-based hero. Then in 1998’s “Superman Red/Superman Blue,” penciled by Stuart Immonen and written by Dan Jurgens, Superman had to escape from a trap by Cyborg Superman and split into two men who came to be known as Red and Blue. The two Supermen were forced to share their lives until finally merging together again.
5. KINETIC ENERGY PUNCH
Superman’s strength is legendary and he’s been shown in both the comics and the movies to be able to do everything from smashing mountains to moving planets, but what if he still wanted to give his fists a little more punch? How does he make his already super-strong punch even stronger? With his kinetic energy punch, a power that directs all the kinetic energy of his physical movement into his fists.
The kinetic punch made its appearance in 2016’s “Action Comics” #49, created by Greg Pak and Aaron Kuder. Before the issue, Superman had lost his powers thanks to Vandal Savage and then exposed himself to kryptonite in order to kill his damaged cells (kind of like how chemotherapy kills cancer). Unfortunately, when he came out of the kryptonite, the process left him with powers hat were at a weaker level. To beat his enemies, Superman had to resort to his kinetic energy punch, which made an explosion on impact. The punch doesn’t move planets, but it gets the job done.
Superman’s five senses are just as amazing as the rest of him. He has super-vision that lets him see far away objects, zoom in to see microscopic creatures and even see through objects. He has super-hearing that lets him hear things in other cities and even other planets, and hear frequencies beyond the human range. Is it a surprise that his sense of smell is just as strong as the rest of him? It shouldn’t be, but it might. The fact is, smelling things isn’t something Superman makes a big deal out of, but we’ll do it for him.
Superman’s sense of smell is just as powerful as his sense of hearing. In other words, he can smell in ways that your average bloodhound could only dream of. He can smell a room and tell if there’s a bomb in it or what chemicals are in something, just from the odor.
3. SHOOT MINI-SUPERMEN
Now we’re getting to one of Superman’s most bizarre and obscure powers, and it’s going to take some explaining. In “Superman” #125 in 1958 (Jerry Coleman, Wayne Boring and Stan Kaye), Superman was investigating a crashed spaceship when it exploded in his face. Afterwards, Superman discovered he lost all of his powers except invulnerability, and one little twist. Instead of using all his power himself, Superman could shoot out a tiny version of himself who was empowered with all his missing abilities.
The Mini-Me version of Superman could fly, had super-strength and all his other powers, but with the extra power of cuteness. When danger struck, Superman was forced to send out his doppleganger to save the day. The best part is that Superman ended up getting jealous of how much more popular his super-Oompa Loompa was, and destroyed it by sending it after a kryptonite meteor shower, proving it’s not the size of the Superman but how you use it.
In the Golden Age, Superman’s powerful lungs could do a lot more than just blow super-cold air. They could also perform what he called “super-ventriloquism,” which is just what it sounds like (pun totally intended). That doesn’t mean Superman would talk with a wooden dummy in his lap while he drank a glass of water. Instead, Superman could perfectly imitate sounds and the voices of others, as well as make it sound like what he was saying was coming from somewhere or someone else.
The power of being the world’s greatest ventriloquist came in surprisingly handy in his adventures. Superman would often throw his voice to people like Supergirl to tell her things without being heard by others. Instead of yelling “Hey, Supergirl, get over here,” Superman would throw his voice so it was like whispering right in her ear from 30 feet away. Over time, his super-ventriloquism disappeared, replaced by other newfangled contraptions like cell phones.
1. SUPER FLARE
As we’ve gone over, Superman already has a ton of superpowers, but by the 1990s, he’d been pretty well nailed down. That’s why 2015’s “Superman” #38 by Geoff Johns and John Romita Jr. rocked the comic world by introducing a brand-new power for the Man of Steel. In a fight against the supervillain Ulysses, Superman pushed his heat vision further than he’d ever done before. To his surprise (and definitely to Ulysses’ surprise as well), the Man of Steel unleashed a huge energy blast from every cell in his body that knocked him unconscious and left him powerless for 24 hours.
That explosion was what came to be known as the Super Flare. Superman was saved by Batman, who later explained that Superman’s heat vision was always just a small focused amount of the total energy he could release. When Superman pushed it to the limit, the action caused him to release all the energy in his body at the cost of his powers. He basically explodes with the power of a small nuke without the inconvenient fallout.
Which power do you think he should use more often? Were there any powers you didn’t know about? Let us know in the comments!